One friend of mine classifies albums that he likes into big and small records. Not according to the dimensions, but according to impact and depth of a concept laid out on the record. According to that classification, Games is a small record. Simple three minute love songs, no impact or concept whatsoever. Still, simple can sometimes be really great. In this case, Games reached a near perfection in my mind. Every song is super catchy and fun. Simplicity of the overall delivery here is disarming.
This is a bubble-gum, a candy. In my ears it sounds so dandy, lemonade and cotton candy. These lyrics lay the ground for this record. But it’s real sugar cane, no artificial sweeteners, no corn syrup. From the beginning, the record strikes you as something really fun, but things really take off with songs number 3 and 4 Different Times and Baby Put Down That Gun. This is when you realize that this record is really special. Urgency and whirl of Different Times take it to that different level. Baby Put Down That Gun keeps the level high with a great chorus, perfect harmonies and a bridge lifted straight from The Ballad of John and Yoko.
The highlight on the B side is When The Time, the only slow number with wonderful 70s retro keyboards and harmonies which are just right. Those harmonies are just slightly out of tune and weary, after all, this music is made by humans. It’s also the moment of the record where the lyrics become more ambitious then the rest of the bubble gum oriented song-smithery. In recent past, this record has the same retro feel and atmosphere as the debut album for Gentleman Jesse and His Men, which is not that crazy of a comparison having in mind that, just like Jesse, the boss of Games, Jeremy Thompson, was once in The Carbonas. Also, Dave Rahn produced and played drums on both records. Going further in the past, this record could easily stand head to head comparison to any of the Stiff, Rak or Buddah releases and maybe even win.
My pet peeve with record reviews in general is that whenever the writers hear some harmonies or power-pop attitude, they start comparisons to Big Star. I love that band, but this needs to end. Neither Games or Mikal Cronin have anything to do with power-pop or Big Star. In case of Games, this is your good old unadulterated, pure sugar-cane bubble gum and be ready for the rush.
The vinyl copy of this record is absolutely one of the nicest pieces of plastic out there. The sound of the record is absolutely flawless and it’s a great example on how vinyl should be done in this day and age. All major flaws are skillfully avoided – the sound is full, no inner groove distortion whatsoever, no sibilance problems, perfect groove centering. Just great. Credit for such a great job goes equally to all engineers involved in the pre-mastering process and Dave Eck from Lucky Lacquers in Midleton WI, who cut the lathe. United Press from Nashville did duplication. The record finishes with a sound of a soda bottle opening and a special treat on the B side is a neat locked groove which takes the carbonation all the way to the infinity. Locked groove is pulled away from the center, so it will lock even for the turntables with automatic tonearms.